I’m going to date myself here, but I don’t mind. If anything I am proud of having a storied history with the world of video games. As fans we are all a part of that history. From the legacy of Mario to the new frontiers of GTA. We, with our wallets and our voices (which, thanks to the internet, have grown louder) decide who makes it and who disappears into obscurity. We are judge, jury, and executioner in this market. I wonder then, why did we give such a harsh sentence to the arcade?
I grew up, and still live, in a small city in Texas. Just under an hour away from Austin, Temple, TX has seen a significant growth in its economy and population over the past decade. We are home to Scott & White, one of the “premiere” hospitals of the south, and we continue to grow every day. But one thing was not only neglected during this growth spurt, but somehow regressed. The arcade.
During my youth we had an arcade in our local mall called Power Play. I remember it getting games like Gauntlet and Marvel Vs. Capcom within weeks of their releases. I recall lines for Gauntlet, and impromptu tournaments in MvC organized by those queued up to play next. We didn’t have all those fancy EVOs and whatnots. When Soul Calibur came out in ‘98; fuhgeddaboudit!
For me, in Temple, it was the pinnacle of the arcade. I almost always lived within walking distance to the mall. Whenever I would go to the mall I would always find change in my pocket if only to play one game, one time. The arcade was a chance to play games that the home consoles at the time couldn’t. Versions of Mortal Kombat not only looked better, but they played better, and in a lot of cases were more difficult than their console brethren. The arcade, with the exception of PC, was pretty much the head of progression.
But soon the scope of home console games out grew the “insert coin to play” mantra. Games had gone from quick burst of fun shared with a crowd of fellow fans and geeks (before cons had become as big and accessible as they are), to long journeys spanning hours and multiple discs. Even fighters like Street Fighter and racers like Ridge Racer started needing save files and often required days, weeks, or months of dedicated play to complete. The closest my arcade ever came to having a game with scope like that was Gauntlet.
Gauntlet was a quick paced, Diablo-esque game with an emphasis on health and experience points over loot, and a flashier aesthetic. I watched this game eat many a quarter, including my own, to stave off the ticking health meter. “Red Wizard needs health badly!” It was also the last game I went to the arcade for honestly. Once it was released on the N64 I was officially a “stay at home gamer;” Only popping my head into the arcade to occasionally play pinball.
Pinball is another beast entirely. One I truly miss from the arcade’s heyday. It is also a subject in and of itself, a whole post could be written about it too. I’ll just leave it at this; Even now I cannot escape the allure of a buzzing, dinging, flashing pinball machine.
While the rest of the world moved on, our little arcade in the mall stagnated. The only change, its name. It is now called “Tilt.” And Tilt is a joke.
It proudly displays decades old games, albeit classics, but the community has moved on.
Not to mention the sorry state of screens and joysticks:
The color quality is equally as bad on a myriad of other titles here.
The other “games” it has amount to no more than slightly (I use that word lightly) less rigged carnival games. Skee-ball is not fun, and an arcade is no place for billiards tables,
And I couldn’t care less about the “prizes” offered for tickets won in these games.
Around a year ago we got a new activity center called Spare Time. It has bowling, laser tag, and (this was especially exciting to me) an arcade. I thought; Finally, an up to date gaming Mecca. At last we’d be getting an arcade with current games, like all the awesome ones that I keep seeing getting released in Japan.
That Transformers game spins around while you play, even rotating you upside down!
I can’t really say I’m surprised at what I saw walking into Spare Time and its “arcade.” Blown up FTP cell phone games, more skee-ball (yay!), and such a kid centric atmosphere it made me feel a little creepy being in there. After all, there were really no games for adults in sight.
This is the regression I mentioned. Arcades went from games we couldn’t play at home the same, to games we already have/had in our pockets. It’s depressing really. Angry Birds is trying to be different from its cell phone counter part, but it’s still just Angry Birds.
I understand that some larger cities may have better arcades, having never been, I don’t know. Maybe you geeks can share stories or images below, show us the state of your local arcade(s). Because the ones we have here are abysmal.
I can see now why our sentencing may have been as harsh as it was. With home gaming advancing, the push for online gaming, and the Cons being so prevalent now, there is nary a reason to get out and go to a dim, seedy building downtown and play old games on poorly maintained machines. We don’t need arcades as an excuse or way to play together anymore. Honestly, I don’t think the old arcade magic can ever be recaptured. We’ll have to settle for our Comic-Cons, games shows like E3, and message boards or blogs like these to stay connected to our people. We have to play online and engage in party chats to laugh and jab our friends.
Is that such a bad thing though? We have lush and robust games with immersive features. We play online with millions of gamers just as passionate as us. If anything the demise of the arcade has made us stronger. Geeks have united in ways we never could before. We are legion. Our ranks are swelling by the hour. Arcades were/are the necessary sacrifice for progress. So maybe it is time we let go and concede that gaming at home and on the bus is more convenient, cheaper, and oft times more fun. Just let go for good this time. I think I have.
Next time I go to the mall I’ll just do this:
So, any of you geeks still have functioning, decent arcades around town? Or are they crumbling relics of yesteryear? Post pictures or fond memories of yours below.